Control by Kim Curran
Control is the direct sequel to Shift. If you haven’t read that first then it is possible, in this reality, that there may be minor spoilers ahead in this review.
Scott Tyler is not like other teenagers. With a single thought he can alter reality around him. And he can stop anyone else from doing the same.
That’s why he’s so important to ARES, the secret government agency that regulates other kids like him: Shifters.
They’ve sent him on a mission. To track down the enigmatic Frank Anderson. An ex-Shifter who runs a project for unusual kids – as if the ability to change your every decision wasn’t unusual enough. But Anderson and the kids have a dark secret. One that Scott is determined to discover.
As his obsession with discovering the truth takes him further away from anyone he cares about, his grip on reality starts to weaken. Scott realises if he can’t control his choices, they’ll control him.
When Scott Tyler discovers he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made he thinks it’s going to be really cool. But as his world starts to unravel he realises it’s going to get him killed. In a world that can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.
Last year I read Shift, Kim Curran’s first novel, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s an intelligent, action packed young-adult debut that had a wonderfully executed premise. I loved the idea that there was a group of special teens who could unmake decisions. We’ve all wished that at one time or another haven’t we? I ask you, who wouldn’t want that ability? The story rather cleverly explores the consequences of living in a potentially consequence-free environment. Is it just as simple as going back making the right choice or are there bigger implications involved in every decision that we make?
Control picks up some months after the events at the end of Shift. Scott has grown into his powers, he is now far more comfortable with the idea of being able to reshape reality. There is part of him, however, that is still haunted by the aftermath of the events in book one. He has become a lot more introspective. Scott is one of the few Shifters who can remember events in other realities while others immediately forget them. This ability is starting to seriously mess with his head. He is beginning to try and second guess every decision that he makes. It’s fascinating to watch him slowly come apart at the seams. The one thing that keeps him going is that his partner, and now girlfriend, Aubrey Jones is still on hand to back him up.
Much as I enjoy Scott’s character, and I really do, it’s Aubrey who is my favourite. With her tough as nails exterior, and her often sardonic attitude, what’s not to love? At times she is brash, confident and outspoken, but this book starts to peel that all away. I was pleased to discover that part of the plot provides some welcome additional insight into Aubrey’s history. She may have been a Shifter longer than Scott but that doesn’t mean she is really any more clued about it than he is. There is a vulnerable side to Jones, hidden deep down, that Curran slowly brings to the fore.
Entropy, the term used to describe when Shifters begin to lose their powers due to the end of adolescence, hangs over Scott and his friends like a constant threat. Working as a nice metaphor for becoming an adult the fear of what they will each become is always there in the background.
In addition to all this character insight, Curran also shows real flair when it comes to writing action scenes. There is a very cool Shifter enhanced mixed martial arts bout near the novel’s beginning that is a perfect example of this. The biggest surprise however is the novel’s eventual outcome. Control ends on an absolutely wonderful Planet of the Apes style moment of revelation (the original 1968 version not the remake). Curran totally blindsided me with this. I was so unprepared, it left me a little speechless (anyone who knows me well will realise just how much of a compliment that is).
Kim Curran has expanded on the promise shown in Shift and created an exciting science fiction action adventure series that is great fun to read. Here in book two she has successfully upped the ante and delivered a sequel that is good, if not better than her debut. More please!
I’ll finish by making a prediction of my own – Based on Shift, and now Control, there ain’t any reality out there where Delete (book three) is going to be anything other than AWESOME!
Control is published by Strange Chemistry and is available now. Well worth checking out.